שלמה צדוק
Dr. Shlomo Zadok
United Torah Judaism leaders Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman and Shas Chairman Arye Deri

It's not Haredi blackmail, but the bedrock of our democracy

Opinion: Ultra-Orthodox leaders never stationed tanks in front of a secular prime minister or presented him with an instrument of surrender, they're simply carrying out the will of their constituents, and their detractors are the same ones who rag on secular politicians for failing to do the same

Dr. Shlomo Zadok |
Published: 02.03.21 , 23:31
The images of mass ultra-Orthodox funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic are truly infuriating and hard to stomach. And still, regardless of these mass events, it seems like their secular detractors find it hard to stomach the sector in general.
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  • The root of the allegations against the ultra-Orthodox and the main reason for the resentment against them stems from their leadership's political conduct. Or what some like to call "the ultra-Orthodox parties' ongoing blackmail."
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    אריה דרעי יעקב ליצמן משה גפני
    אריה דרעי יעקב ליצמן משה גפני
    United Torah Judaism leaders Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman and Shas Chairman Arye Deri
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Gil Yochanan and Ohad Zwigenberg)
    But one must ask himself: is this really blackmail?
    I usually need a sedative pill before leaping to the defense of politicians, but when they're right – they're right. And when an angry mob of secular publicists pounces on ultra-Orthodox representatives for seemingly no reason, it justifies protecting them with vigor.
    Lashing out at the ultra-Orthodox parties is considered sexy in their eyes and manages to draw high ratings.
    "How dare the ultra-Orthodox make such sectoral and individual economic demands, and especially for those who do not serve in the military and some do not even work," their critics may write in anger.
    But anyone who values the character and resilience of the State of Israel must admit ultra-Orthodox politics is not only moral but is a true role model of representative democracy.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מתפללים בבני ברק בצל התפשטות הקורונה
    מתפללים בבני ברק בצל התפשטות הקורונה
    Ultra-Orthodox praying in Bnei Brak during COVID-19 pandemic
    (Photo: AFP)
    The whole purpose of representative democracy is presenting constituents with an agenda to pursue and getting their consent to do just that, otherwise, this whole game of representative politics falls right on its face and turns into one big sham.
    So why are we lamenting the fact that ultra-Orthodox parties are working to fulfill the promises they made to their constituents?
    After all, we have seen more than once those same secular publicists attack secular parties for abandoning their platforms for political survival or personal gain, especially after the fallout of the current government.
    The reason behind these attacks is pure frustration.
    Every time we send our representatives to Knesset to fight for our agenda, and each and every time, right as the election is over, politicians transform into these rhetorical contortionists, using ridiculously obfuscated language to explain why they can't follow the agenda for which they were elected.
    "The battle against Haredi blackmail is a battle for the soul of the nation," they yell. But is transferring several hundred million (some populists may even say several billion) shekels in political fees really "the soul of the nation?"
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    Ultra-Orthodox men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
    Ultra-Orthodox men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
    Ultra-Orthodox men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
    (Photo: EPA)
    This must be a joke since many of those same detractors won't sound a peep when the state spends similar sums on other causes.
    Ultra-Orthodox leaders get their economic, social and ideological benefits fair and square through free and transparent coalition negotiations. They never stationed tanks in front of a secular prime minister or presented him with an instrument of surrender.
    Their demands are as legitimate as the many other clauses in coalition agreements and in political play through which secular lawmakers "blackmail" the state coffers with the passing of the state budget each year.
    The sights of those ultra-Orthodox and secular lawmakers scrambling to secure funds for their constituents' interests is the whole purpose of them getting elected in the first place.
    More than once have we seen nameless MKs fighting to secure extra funding for some obscure causes that only a few stand to benefit from. But elected officials must follow through on the promises they made to their voters.
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    מליאת הכנסת
    מליאת הכנסת
    The Knesset Plenum
    (Photo: Knesset Channel)
    On the other hand, past and future elected officials have no reason to apologize for "capitulating."
    Our prime ministers have always been and always will be subjected to coalition demands. This outcome is perfectly fine and even desirable.
    Fulfilling the demands of the ultra-Orthodox is part of a sane, enlightened and progressive political system. If we wish to preserve our democracy, we must stand up for the right of minority parties to fight for their dignity and their interests.
    If we won't allow such "blackmails" to take place, we will no longer have a free and fair election, which should frighten us more than a few tens or hundreds of millions more for the ultra-Orthodox. Democracy is worth it

    Dr. Shlomo Zadok is a political sociologist
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